Featured Articles - Seeking Refuge
Above: Belgian refugees with a traditional dog cart. Below: Posters like these encouraged donations from the public.
Alice De Busscher, wife of Edward Bernard, lies in the churchyard at St.Andrews, Leyland
Belgian Refugees: Fleeing from the German Advance
Belgium was a recently (1830) created independent state that respected the neutrality that was imposed upon it in 1839 by international treaties.
The German Empire informed the Belgian government on 2 August that according to their reliable information sources the French army would travel across Belgium to attack Germany. Germany asked Belgium to consider this by the next day and to allow the German army to pass through Belgium in order to face the French ‘threat’. In case this would not be allowed Belgium would be considered as an enemy. Germany declared war on France and early on 4 August the German army entered Belgium. On 7 August the town of Liege was captured by the Germans and the small untrained Belgian army started their retreat. It was the start of the notion of “brave little Belgium” and its honourable defence of the neutrality of the country against far bigger powers.
The hardest-hit places by the German advance were Aarschot on 19 August and Andenne on 20 August; the small industrial town of Tamines on the Meuse, where 383 inhabitants were killed on 22 August; the city of Dinant, where, on 23 August, the worst massacre of the invasion left 674 people, one out of every 10 inhabitants, dead; and the university town of Louvain (Leuven), where the treasured university library was burned and 248 civilians killed.
The British government, headed by Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, concerned by persistent reports of German brutality towards the civilian population in invaded Belgium in 1914, consequently requested James Bryce to prepare an independent report based upon his and an appointed committee's findings. The findings of this committee helped to foster public sympathy towards the Belgian state and her refugees.
Life in Leyland
The start of the war saw an influx of refugees from Belgium to Britain. In September 1914 the British government offered "victims of war the hospitality of the British nation." The British Government accepted the responsibility for the reception, maintenance and registration of Belgian refugees, while at the same time sought out assistance in housing the refugees with local authorities. The Belgian refugees remained in Britain until after the end of the First World War, when most returned to Belgium.
The Leyland Parish Magazine as well as newspapers like the Chorley Weekly News reported on the current situation relating to the Belgian refugees taken in by the parishioners of Leyland. The snippets reproduced here are from the Leyland Parish Magazine and can be found within Leyland library.
Although the refugees were sheltered in the Anglican vicarage of St. Andrews, they were predominantly Roman Catholics whose sacraments were performed at St. Marys, then on Worden Lane. The Leyland historian, W. E. Waring has searched the archives at St. Marys and found the records I have reproduced in this table.
Ludovic Vevloet (an infant) - Died 17th/18th March 1915
Anna Maria De Busscher. Daughter of John and Rose nee De Cock. Godfather Felix De Busscher. Godmother Anne Catherine De Busscher - Born 9th October 1915 - Baptized 17th October 1915.
Francis Albert Caverneels. Son of Andrew Albert and Louisa nee Lourra. Godfather Francis Caverneels. Godmother Maria McLeavy - Born 29th October 1915 - Baptized 29th October 1915.
Maria Louisa Vervloet. Daughter of John Francis and Maria Theresa nee Lauvers. Godfather Alphonse Vervloet. Godmother Mary Louisa Burchall - Born 28th October 1915 - Baptized 31st October 1915.
Mary Frances Elizabeth Bouvard. Daughter of Edward and Mary nee Vervloet. Godfather John Francis Vervloet. Godmother Mary Vervloet - Born 3rd May 1916 - Baptized 14th May 1916.
Hilary Albert Vervloet. Son of John Francis and Mary Theresa nee Lauvers. Godfather Hilary Drossens. Godmother Mary Clotilius Vervloet - Born 2nd April 1917 - Baptized 8th April 1917.
Yvonne Godeliva Vervloet. Daughter of John Francis and Maria Theresa nee Lauvers. Godfather John Edward Bouvard. Godmother Mary Ann Huysmans - Born 2nd April 1917 - Baptized 8th April 1917.
Edward Bernard De Busscher of Cremeloo, Belgium & Alice Ryding of Leyland - Married 30th January 1919.
Edward Lambert & Marie De Buscher - Married 25th October 1919.
Francis Waeghe & Maria Gregson - Married 8th November 1919.
By W.E. Waring, Charles O'Donnell and Felix van Eyken